Daniel and I have a pattern to our travels - we spend a length of time abroad, then we plan multiple shorter trips spanning the length of our own country. Most recently, we hopped on a short plane flight and made our way to Nashville, Tennessee.
I had never been to Nashville. Being a New Yorker and a self-proclaimed 'Yankee,' I wasn't sure if Nashville could steal my heart - but it did. The culture, the people, the "hipster" vibe I wasn't expecting, and the vibrant heartbeat of music; it was a city unlike any I had experienced before, and one I think we experienced well. So take a look at the things we experienced in Nashville, and add them to your 'to do' list!
The CMA Fest
Daniel and I may have picked the best or the worst time to visit Nashville. It was ridiculously expensive to find flights and hotels during that weekend (round trips were $500 compared to their usual $150) but definitely worth it if you feed off of crowds and adrenaline like we do. The CMAFest may have even ignited in me an appreciation for country music.
We visited all of the free sites - we walked Broadway (amidst high-fives and hugs from strangers. Something these New Yorkers really had to get used to) and swung by all the free shows we could. Our favorite show was Jacob Davis on the Hard Rock Stage (this has nothing to do with my brother being the guitarist, I promise.) During the CMAFest, Nashville is a little more country and a lot more busy. There were swarms of excited, Vegas-y crowds, hundreds of cowboy boots, and the distinct smells of leather and beer. But there was just something about the excitement, friendliness and passion that took ahold of us and didn't let go.
THE PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE & BROADWAY
Even if you don't visit during the CMAFest, make sure to take 1/2 a day to visit "the strip." (There's a reason they call it 'Nashvegas.') It won't take long to see it all, but the "honky tonks" are worth a visit. There is live music everywhere and in every bar. Guitarists standing on the bars, women jumping onstage to dance, square dancers pairing up on the floor, beer cans littering the tables - it's an atmosphere unique to Nashville. And one I recommend experiencing.
After the strip, walk the Pedestrian Bridge and snap some photos of the adorable little skyline.
THE PARTY UBER
Unfortunately, hailing the Party Uber is left up to luck. However, if you are lucky enough to be graced by the Party Uber, you will not be disappointed. The driver, Blake, has laser lights, a waterfall and a disco ball installed in his run-down car. There's a TV screen on every seat, connected to a Nintendo 64 with Mario Kart ready to play! At the beginning of our ride, he announced that the winner of Mario Kart would receive a fruit roll-up and the loser would have to streak around the car when we arrived at our destination (this didn't happen. But the fruit roll-up did!) He also announced that the Party Uber came fully equipped with complimentary condoms, birth control and Plan B. Plus, the seat pockets were full of candy, and the music could be controlled from the back seat! If you're lucky enough to hail the Party Uber (or have any other great Uber stories), leave us comments below.
THE BASEMENT EAST
When in Nashville, go to concerts. Soak in as much live music as you can. Thanks to my brother who is taking the town by storm, we got to attend a Cassadee Pope concert. She was fantastic live, and the venue (frequented mostly by locals) was one we recommend visiting. Though this goes without saying, Basement East had a 'basement vibe,' - a dark, concrete, urban room with a bar and excellent views of the stage, as well as very comparable ticket pricing. Put it on your list!
One of my favorite places to explore in Nashville was 12 South. It reminded me of a smaller scale Brooklyn - it's wannabe hipster vibe and overwhelming amount of local restaurants and bakeries made it a cool neighborhood to wander. White's Mercantile is an adorable little 'knick-knack' shop that we recommend visiting, before you make your way to either Five Daughters for donuts or Jeni's for ice cream - or both! (We'll further describe both of those excellent desserts in our upcoming blogpost about our 'Foodie Adventures' in Nashville.)
When visiting 12 South, feel free to drive if you have access to a car - parking is easy to find just a few blocks away, as the area is very residential.
THE GAYLORD OPRYLAND RESORT
This may be the #1 touristy thing to visit, but it was stunning! We spent our entire morning wandering this giant hotel and conference center. Weather-regulated with excellent landscaping and interior decorating, the Gaylord Opryland Resort is like walking through a Utopia. Big glass ceilings let the bright sun shine through, but the heat stays outside of the air-conditioned resort. Bridges, stairs and corridors weave in and out of shops, rivers, waterfalls, fountains and 'jungles.' Everywhere we turned, there was something new to see. In one corner, a bench sat, nestled in-between romantically flickering lanterns. In another, a woman dressed as a snake slithered between the trees. In yet another, you could crawl through a fallen tree to see the live frogs, snakes and lizards inside. My favorite location was the bridge overlooking a fountain that would frequently flick water into the air and then land in a pool of lazily swimming Koi fish. Explore this resort and see what you can find!
The Marathon Motor Building
In north Nashville, inside an industrial factory building, countless craft stores, art galleries and antique shops are local gems. Daniel and I have begun a collection of artwork that we purchase from local artists in every new location we visit, so we spent a lot of time in 'O'Gallery finding the perfect abstract piece. After that, we visited The Soda Parlor. They sold rich, frothy ice cream floats in their cafe, and had a whole host of board games to play. If we were locals, I could see Daniel and I going on a Sunday afternoon to sip on an orange creamsicle float and play a game of 'Sorry!'
That 'Small Town Feel'
I love our big-city life, but getting away is a good thing to do every now and then. That may be why I really enjoyed Nashville's seemingly built-in 'Small Town' feel. It may have been the friendliness of the locals, it could have been the mere existence of Walmart, or maybe it was the familiar faces we saw (everyone is moving there! It's definitely an 'up and coming city'), but we were really feeling the small town vibe. In fact, on our last night in Nashville, amidst a group of faces we were only just meeting and a few we had known for years, we brought out the sparklers. Anyone who knows me knows that fireworks make the short list of 'things I love most in the world' - so dancing around on the grass with the sparkler that night, fireflies blinking all around me, I was transported back to growing up in Pennsylvania's countryside. That may have been the moment that sealed it for me - the moment I realized that maybe I could live in an area of this country that has both the city's pulse and the small town's whispers. Possibly.